Guidelines for Position Paragraphs

Position paragraphs require concise, focused, and organized writing. Your 

assignment is to write a paragraph that analyzes one specific ethical idea from the 

current course unit. You choose the idea to write about; the point of the assignment 

is to reflect deeply on a topic that matters to you. If you need help selecting a topic, 

consult your instructor. In general, a good strategy is to write about whatever you 

consider to be the most important (or interesting, relevant, controversial, 

wrongheaded, or strange) point raised in the reading. 

What exactly do you need to do? 

Review the supplemental materials. Make sure you have read the assignment 

carefully enough to be able to make a considered judgment about your topic. 

Remember: Your Position Paragraph must focus on a single topic, so make sure that 

you have identified just one point to write about. 

Review relevant Discussion board discussions. Take some good reading notes 

and try summarizing crucial points concisely and clearly. 

Reflect on what you have uncovered, with an eye to forming your own 

opinion about the text and about the topic. Questions you might want to 

consider include: 

Of the issues discussed in the text, which topics are most important to you? 

How much ethical theory can you apply to your own experiences? Explain. 

After applying ethical reasoning, would you view the situation differently? If yes, how 


These reflections will provide the raw material for your Position Paragraph. Your 

paragraph should be a carefully crafted distillation and summary of your reflections. 

Here’s one format you can try: 

First: A sentence that clearly and concisely identifies your topic. Your 

sentence should be free of jargon (or it should explain any jargon that is absolutely 

necessary), and it should immediately get to the heart of the matter. Don’t start with 

a general introduction to your topic and then take four or five sentences to describe 

it — your goal is to crystallize the essence of the topic in one excellent sentence. 

Concision, clarity, and focus are crucial. 

Second: A sentence that explains the philosophical significance of your topic. 

You can explain how it fits in with the rest of this week’s assignment; how it 

connects up with other issues we have read about or discussed how it has affected 

you or your life or why you find it important or interesting. You may spend several 

sentences doing each of these things if you wish, but an excellent sentence focusing 

on just one of them is vastly preferred to a mediocre “kitchen sink” answer. 

Third: A sentence that sets out your opinion about this topic. To maintain 

focus and clarity, it is best to write about just one evaluative point as concisely and 

carefully as you can. Space may remain to raise a second point, but only do this if 

you are sure that the rest of your paper is just right. 

 Fourth: A sentence that provides the ethical reasoning that would support 

your opinion or stance on the issue: This sentence should clearly demonstrate 

your understanding of the ethical theory used (Consequential – ethical egoism; 

ethical altruism; utilitarianism or non-consequential – Kantian Principles, absolute 

law, Divine Command, ect.) to support your position. 

Fifth: A statement of conclusion. Your conclusion should tie your thesis (specific 

issue) to your stance or opinion through the ethical reasoning to conclude an ethical 


Leave yourself enough time to rewrite, edit, and proofread your paragraph. (Hint: A 

sufficiently clear, focused, and concise paragraph should “sound right” when you 

read it out loud, and should be reasonably clear to a friend who is not in the class.)

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